Sunday's European Youth Championships provided a tremendous finale to what was a memorable contesting weekend.
Thirteen bands from nine nations undertook the immense task of raising the thousands of Euros, Pounds, Krone and Francs to compete in the event, demonstrating in the process not only their excellence as performers, but also their commitment to being an integral part of the European contesting experience.
Although questions remain over the financial feasibility of holding an annual contest, none remain over its musical value — and especially with the crowning of a brace of exceptional champions in Young Brass Band Willebroek in the Premier Section and Tertnes Skoles Musikkorps in the Development event.
The Belgians will surely return to try and make it a hat-trick of victories in Ostend in 2017, although EBBA must try and find a way to offer at least a small slice of the monetary prize cake currently provided for their other contest events to help with the competitor's costs.
On a weekend when the winner of the Soloist Competition walked away with 3,000 Euros, the champion bands here left with just a trophy, framed banner and some knick-knacks. The happy memories will be priceless though.
However, it was a horrendous misjudgement that the event organisers insisted on competitors having to pay to come into the hall to listen to their rivals yet opened the doors to anyone and everyone for what turned out to be a wonderful results ceremony.
It will be a long time before anyone forgets the brilliant showmanship of the European Youth Band under Erik Janssen, who must have been sponsored by the local energy drinks company.
They roused the audience (both young and old) to get to their feet to shake, rattle, roll and dance their way around the hall to the sound of what became their signature tune of, 'This is.... Awesome' — which even for those with a more reserved understanding of Anglo-Saxon vocabulary found a hoot!
Hopefully, any future concerns will be answered in time for 2017 contest, where Young Brass Band Willebroek will surely be the band to beat once more under their remarkable MD Frans Violet, as they successfully defended their title by beating off the bold challenge of England's Youth Brass 2000, with French favourites Youth Brass Nord Pas de Calais in third.
The talented young Belgians were superb; displaying a remarkable maturity in a programme that included the set-work, 'Olympus' by Philip Harper, Jonas Violet delivering a cracking 'Rule Britannia' on euphonium, a sublime 'Irish Blessing' and a rousing 'Cossack Fire Dance' full of ensemble and solo virtuosity.
It proved good enough to pip England's excellent standard bearer Youth Brass 2000, who pushed their counterparts all the way under MD Chris Jeans. Their polished set, based on their recent UK title winning programmes was superbly drilled, but was pushed dynamically at times, ensuring a loss of clarity in the music for the judges, composer of 'Fraternity' Thierry Deleruyelle and Steven Mead.
The star of the show for the Northamptonshire based band though was 18 year old horn player, Siobhan Bates, who delivered a fabulous rendition of 'Capriccio Brilliante' to deservedly take the 'Best Instrumentalist' award.
With EBBA eager to use the event as a beacon to help inspire more youth bands from across Europe to take part, a highly encouraging performance from Youth Brass Nord Pas de Calais saw the French band claim third under Luc Vertommen.
'Neath the Dublin Skies', James Curnow's 'Tribute' and 'In Perfect Peace' didn't quite match the quality of their impressive set-work performance, but it certainly gave a clear indication of their growing maturity.
Behind them, the youngsters of Bayerische Jugend Brass Band des 3BA, (whose fans should have got an award themselves for their brilliant support) set a super marker off the number 1 draw with a set that included a colourful performance of Kevin Houben's 'The Lake of the Moon', whilst former champions Liberty Brass Band from Switzerland once again shone with a programme that included a vibrant rendition of 'Olympiada'.
Meanwhile, the National Youth Band of Denmark displayed their emerging talents under MD, Stig Maersk (who less than 24 hours later became a new father), with a set that included a smashing account of 'Mysterious Voices' arranged by Simon Dobson, whilst Greater Gwent Youth left no stone unturned as they sought to emulate Cory's triumph with a bold programme rounded off with a splendid 'Nightingale Dances'.
Rate of progression
And with the European Championship heading to Lithuania in 2019, Pavoveres Brass Band showed that at this rate of progression they will be a force to be reckoned with as they gave their all helped by a cracking account of 'The African Connection'.
The honours and the title though headed once again to Belgium and to the superb Young Brass Band of Willebroek. Even their signing as they paraded the winner's banner and the wooden trophy was in tune and perfectly balanced.
The fantastic Norwegians of Tertnes Skoles Musikkorps took the spoils in the Development Section, where the youngsters from a small handful of schools just outside Bergen were simply brilliant in overcoming four outstanding rivals.
From the opening, fully-rounded, warm-toned notes of Edward Gregson's 'Music for Greenwich', they displayed a remarkable level of musical maturity under the baton of MD, Jan Egil Jorgensen, whilst their supporting items were equally as good.
Torstein Aagaard-Nilsen's lively 'Norwegian Dance' was sprightly and detailed, whilst the excellent bass trombone solo, 'Fields of Gold' paved the way for the ensemble to cut loose with a tribute set to 'Robbie Williams and George Michael': It was eye popping stuff that had you shaking your head in disbelief at the poise and musicality on display.
They had to be, as just behind them came the British duo of Elland Silver Youth and defending champion, Wardle Academy — both of who couldn't have done anything more in their bid for European glory.
The newly crowned UK Intermediate Youth Champion under MD Samantha Harrison, set the bar at a imposing height from the number one draw with a fabulous programme that included 'Prismatic Light', a swaggering 'Marche Lorraine' and an aptly titled 'Sparkling Diamonds' to close. Their very fine principal trombone, Charlotte Horsfield didn't go home empty handed though, after the talented teenager took the instrumental prize for a virtuosic 'Bayerische Polka'.
Just a point further back came the defending champion Wardle Youth Academy led by Sean Conway, who opted for a programme that included a boldly played 'The Mansions of Glory' by Jonathan Bates, that contrasted neatly with 'Canterbury Chorale' and 'The Old Hundredth'.
In such exceptional company there was also a great deal to be proud about for Cardiff County and Vale of Glamorgan, who gave their all in their programme that included Roy Newsome's 'Concorde' and 'Funk Engine' by Ryan Howells, whilst Ausktyn Brass showed that Lithuania is fast becoming a hot-house of banding talent with a impressive showing which featured a cracking 'Gospel Brass Machine' to close.
The Norwegians though were the most worthy of champions — led by an MD who led them to victory with a smile, a wink and a thumbs up of support on stage at just about every opportunity he had. Their long journey home will have been something to cherish.
The honours and the title though headed once again to Belgium and to the superb Young Brass Band of Willebroek. Even their signing as they paraded the winner's banner and the wooden trophy was in tune and perfectly balanced4BR
Premier Section Section:
Test Piece: Olympus (Philip Harper) & Own Choice Programme
Adjudicators: Thierry Deleruyelle, Steven Mead
1. Young Brass Band Willebroek (Frans Violet): 97
2. Youth Brass 2000 (Chris Jeans): 96
3. Youth Brass Nord Pas de Calais (Luc Vertommen): 94
4. Bayerische Jugend Brass Band des 3BA (Benjamin Markel): 93
5. Liberty Brass Band Junior (Christoph Luschsinger): 92
6. National Youth Brass Band of Denmark (Stig Maersk): 91
7. Greater Gwent Youth Brass Band (Gareth Ritter): 90
8. Pavoveres Brass Band (Bronislovas Vilimas): 89
Best Instrumentalist: Siobhan Bates (tenor horn) — Youth Brass 2000
Test Piece: Music for Greenwich (Edward Gregson) & Own Choice Programme
Adjudicators: Florient Didier, Michael Forsyth
1. Tertnes Skoles Musikkorps (Jan Egil Jorgensen): 97
2. Elland Silver Youth (Samantha Harrison): 96
3. Wardle Academy Youth (Sean Conway): 95
4. Cardiff County and Vale of Glamorgan Youth (Charles Maynard): 91
5. Ausktyn Brass (Remigijus Vilys): 90
Best Instrumentalist: Charlotte Horsfield (trombone) — Elland Silver Youth